Q: What's a greener present: a vegan handbag made with fake leather or a real leather one?
A: Someone should really set up a website where adults can write wish lists to Santa and have them automatically cc-ed to their friends and family. Men wouldn't have to feign delight when they unwrap a reindeer sweater. And women could find stacks of things they really want under the tree. You know, like handbags.
Truth is, both vegan leather and new real leather are polluting to manufacture and force you into an uncomfortable debate between the perils of offgassing petroleum-based plastics versus the value of an animal life.
Avoid the whole mess and reach for recycled leather from old coats and pants. Plenty of Canadian designers are doing gorgeous stuff with this material, and you can find their work through local sources like baggagehandbags.ca, thieves.ca or greenisblack.com.
For those on your wish list squirming at the thought of animal skins, look for vegan organic and reclaimed fabric handbags at stores like Heart on Your Sleeve, Green Is Black, Nathalie-Roze & Co. and other indie boutiques. Who needs Gucci anyway?
Q: How bad is getting an artificial winter tan for the environment?
A: The sound of Bing Crosby has you itching for island life, does it? The popularity of tanning booths and self-tanners starts skyrocketing right about now, alongside the spike in $499 deals to Cuba.
If you're worried about looking like Frosty the Snowman in a Speedo, you might already be eyeballing those bronzing parlours around town.
I don't have to tell you how bad those are for your skin (both cancer- and aging-wise), but what about the greenhouse gas footprint of fakin' 'n' bakin'? Let's just say these high-powered babies definitely don't make the planet any younger-looking.
Regular lie-down beds have 24 to 48 light bulbs baking you with anywhere from 100 to 200 watts of power each. Stand-up beds? They're nearly twice as potent. We're talking 52 to 60 bulbs apiece. Throw in some extra wattage near the face (in the form of a few 400 to 1,000 watt bulbs) and your total energy suck factor is 12,000 watts! Even a central AC unit only uses 3,500. Sure, you're only in there for maybe 10 minutes twice a week, but it adds up.
It's true the world of professional bronzers is trying to green itself. Companies like Montreal-based Tanses Technologies are introducing "energy-efficient" beds that allow salons to lower their enviro impact. But hold on to your tanning oils: that only means a drop from 52 bulbs to 48 or switching to electric ballasts. If salons really drop their power usage, you won't be walking out bronzed. There are whispers about LED tanning beds amongst earth-conscious tanners, but so far LED lights are being marketed as a light therapy thing, not a tan booster.
In case you were considering other means of getting that George Hamilton glow, let's cover all the bizarre bronzing methods available to you. First: tanning pills. Stay away from these and anything else that promises beauty in a capsule. Health Canada doesn't say much about these, but the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says they're dangerous. The main ingredient in sunless tanning pills, canthaxanthin, can form yellow crystals in your eyes and mess with your vision and your liver.
What about the tan you slather on from a bottle? Basically, all the self-tanning creams on the market get their faux glow from a pretty natural ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is actually derived from beet or cane sugar, and its effect is analogous to a browning apple when it interacts with the proteins in dead surface skin cells.
While most of the self-tanners in beauty aisles are loaded with other dodgy chemicals like parabens, tree-hugging tanorexics can find largely natural self-tanners in health stores. In fact, Lavera makes a really clean 'n' green self-tanning cream for body and face. Nature's Gate Organics isn't quite as pure but makes both the kind of cream that clings to your skin for a week and tinted Happy Glow Lucky moisturizers that wash off.
Biodynamic-heavy Dr. Hauschka also makes a beeswax and rose petal based tinted moisturizer to give wind-burnt skin a warm glow, even if your only plans to head south this winter involve taking the subway to Union Station.
Got a question?
Send your green queries to email@example.com